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Address to the Sports Breakfast, Malta.

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26 November 2005



Thank you very much Michael, the Prime Minister of Malta, President Obasanjo, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, others ministers, ladies and gentlemen. Can I start, like Mr Blair and the Prime Minister of Malta, in recording my sadness at George Best’s death. He was a remarkable sportsman. To see some of the footage last night on Sky News, his magical ball control and although my first football love is rugby I have followed and played soccer at various stages of my life and to see somebody with that sort of ball control was just absolute magic. And on another personal note can I also pay tribute to that great West Indian cricketer Brian Lara who overnight in Adelaide passed Alan Border’s record as the greatest run-getter in test cricket history. And I pay unstinting tribute with certain heaviness of Australian heart, but nonetheless very generously to that great West Indian. Of course that’s the total number of runs scored in test matches, they play a lot more now. If you actually look at averages you know that one person is still a mile in front of everybody. So, you know, we keep the sense of perspective about all of this.

But I’m here today to, above everything else, extol to you the virtues of what I, as somebody who’s grown up in Sydney, very happily describe as the sporting capital of Australia, and that is the city of Melbourne. The people of Melbourne are the most loyal sports spectators anywhere in the world. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is a wonderful arena, the seats are regularly filled to capacity in following Australian rules and Boxing Day tests. And wonderfully in 1956 the Olympic Games and in 2006 the Commonwealth Games. And it will be the fourth occasion, Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1988 and Melbourne in 2006, that Australia will have the privilege of hosting the Commonwealth Games. And I do pay tribute to Ron Walker. Ron’s a remarkably energetic, he’s indefatigable in his persistence and his energy and his enthusiasm for the cause. And I am very, very pleased to acknowledge the presence of two Australian athletes, Tatiana Grigorieva and Michael Rogers,

both of whom we look forward to gracing the victory dais with great style and great skill at the Games in March.

I invite all of you to come and passionately support it. Can I congratulate Tony Blair on London’s victory in the Olympic Games of 2012? And it was a victory that I was delighted to see the city of London win and I think the city of London will do it in very great style. I


remember congratulating him when I was in England just after the Games had been won by London and I said it very publicly and very fulsomely and I said that I hoped that was the last time that year I’d be congratulating Mr Blair on any sporting event, but sadly a few weeks later I had to congratulate him on a victory in the Ashes. But that being the nature of the come and go of sport, I want to endorse everything that President Obasanjo and Tony Blair and the Prime Minister of Malta have said about the way in which sport does bring out the best in people. It sometimes, occasionally brings out the worst in the odd spectator but overwhelmingly it does bring out great things and I’m not surprised to hear the reaction, the positive social reaction already in parts of London to the news that the games have been won. And it is teaching us to worry more about physical fitness, about obesity, about maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle all through your life.

And in that context I’d like to announce that the Australian Government will be investing in a new $10 million sports outreach programme aimed predominately at Commonwealth countries. And this programme will focus on increasing physical activity participation at junior levels and providing advice on basic coaching education and club administrative procedures. The programme is also designed to offer an effective vehicle for addressing broader community issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, youth leadership and personal development. The programme will run from July 2006 to July 2011 and will supersede discrete Australian Government sports development programmes in the Pacific, Africa and Caribbean which are due to cease under present arrangements in June of next year. Of the new $10 million allocation, each year $1 million will be earmarked for the Pacific and $1 million for Commonwealth countries in other regions.

We are a sports loving nation, we’re very proud to host the Commonwealth Games, we’ve been very proud to welcome the world to the Olympic Games in Melbourne and Sydney, in ’56 and 2000, the hugely successful Rugby World Cup in 2003. And can I say on behalf of

all Australians that Melbourne will greet you with warmth, with enthusiasm, the Games will be a huge success and it will be a wonderful endorsement of the way in which sport binds the Commonwealth as well as the nations of the world together.

Thank you.